Sinking of Al Salam Boccaccio 98 February 2006

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Jun 11, 2000
The Al Jazeera website, which has a feedback section, is attracting all sorts of bigots and weirdos unfortunately. Arab conspiracy theorists think the Israelis sank it with a missile, rednecks are jeering at Allah's inability to save the faithful etc. All very depressing and distasteful, though I did notice one thing all these ghastly people had in common - none of them could write or spell. Just about what one might expect I suppose.

This ship, of course, was unable in the last couple of decades to operate in European waters as it would never have passed the safety regulations in the wake of the Herald of Free Enterprise and, more particularly, the Estonia disaster. It does seem irresponsible to sell off such vessels to developing nations - after all, if it's unsafe in the North Sea, it is unsafe anywhere. Adding extra upper layers to a ro-ro, the sister ship of which has already foundered due to water-induced instability, seems like lunacy.

Those poor men and their families. And what is it with this reluctance to accept international help - just like the Kursk? It's very sad that at times like these, when people just want to forget their differences and help fellow sailors and passengers, politics seems to get in the way.
Apr 27, 2005
Monica, you hit the nail on the head. What justification is there in assuming that safety is not of prime importance in the third world? This ship wouldn't have made a stable wedding cake, much less a vehicle for transporting human lives! And the sharks in the Red Sea? Wow. Gross negligence on the part of her operators.

Cara Ginter

Oct 25, 2004
I can believe it... it's really stunning how this could happen. Of course no ship is perfect, and this one far from it. But what I'm thinking is, with the accusation of not enough lifeboats, not enough life belts and such... someone is going to have hell to pay. You'd think that they'd have learned... through all the past shipping disasters... but I guess not.
Mar 28, 2002
There are around 400 survivors of the ferry now landed in Safaga, Egypt. Most talk of a fire on board that started in the engine room and burned for a long time. In the meantime, passengers appealed to the crew to either return to port or lower the lifeboats, neither of which they did until near the end. The net result of that inaction is around 1,000 people dead.

If the ferry is the former Free Enterprise IV (and this has not yet been confirmed but all clues point to it), she was built in 1969 by I.C.H. Holland, Werf Gusto Yard, Schiedam, Holland for the European Ferries Group, one of five sister ships commissioned by EFG (but not a sister ship of the Herald of Free Enterprise, contradictory to newspaper reports). She entered service with the recently merged Townsend Thoresen on the Dover routes to Calais, Zeebrugge and Boulogne. In 1976, she transferred to the Cainryan-Larne route until 1986 when she went back to Dover. In 1987, she was laid up at Chatham, Kent, sold to Sea-Link Rederi AB in 1988 and rebuilt at Landskrona. She entered service for GT-Link as Falster Link between Gedser and Travemunder. In 1990 her German port changed to Rostock. A year later she was sold to Europa Linien A/S of Gedser. In 1996, she was laid up, briefly used for Scandlines between Gedser and Rostock in 1997 and finally sold in 1998 to El Salaam Shipping and Trading in Cairo and renamed Tag Al Salam, later becoming the Al Salam 98.

Not quite sure where the Italians come into the equation though, as quoted in some newspapers.

Frances James

Jul 3, 2000
It is not apparently the Free Enterprise IV. The FE4 is the Tag Al Salam rather than the Boccaccio '98 it gets confusing when they use Al Salam as part of the name for all the ships and then just refer to it.
I was however upset to realise that the Pride of Al Salam was the one lost in october as I sailed on her and saw her every day on in one of her previous forms.

ETA: Al Salam 98 stats
Capacity: 1,487
Built: Italy 1970
Length: 118m (388ft)
Gross tonnage: 11,779t
Owner: El-Salam Maritime
May 3, 2002
Wellington, New Zealand
This is exactly what I have feared: A sudden roll over.

Who allowed that top heavy abortion to go to sea? It appears they thought it would be great to build up the superstructure by a few decks. You can see the bridge where the original came too.

Someone should be in deep for that modification.
as Senan said...
"High winds... low metacentric height..." ...goodbye ship


Frances James

Jul 3, 2000
"The vessel was rebuilt in 1991 by INMA at La Spezia, maintaining the same outer dimensions albeit with a higher superstructure, changing the draught to 5.90 m. At the same time its automobile capacity was increased to 320 and the passenger capacity was increased to 1,300. The most recent gross registered tonnage was 11,799."

Inger Sheil

Feb 9, 1999
22C is about 71.6F, Mike, not 60. Certainly that's enough to induce hypothermia. Even if water temps are only a few degrees lower than body temperature, inevitably you will eventually suffer sooner or later from hypothermia, however mild - water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air.

One factor in surviving longer would be ambient air temp, which would be higher - so if you could get as much of your core out of the water as possible (e.g. by getting your torso supported by floating wreckage), hypothermia would not necessarily be the first thing to get you. Dehydration, sunstroke, and other elements (e.g. sharks) would be factors in the mix to shorten how long you could stay alive.

Without these other elements, studies suggest that the survival expectation for an average adult in water temps of 70 - 80F is 3 hours to indefinite. 50-60F is estimated at 1 -6 hours, and 60-70F is estimated at 2 - 40 hours.

Paul Rogers

Jun 1, 2000
West Sussex, UK
Found a site that achieved a partial translation of the stats from Boz's link. Most of the remaining gobbledegook can be deduced by context.


Build 1970 ouch Italcantieri S.p.A., Castellamare di Steady, Italy.

Varvsnummer. 4237.

Dimensions. 130,99 x 19,99 x 5,57.

After rebuild. 130,99 x 23,60 x 5,90 m.

Brt/Dwt. 6900/1946.

After rebuild. Brt/Nrt/Dwt. 11799/5555/2200.

Machinery. Televisionå 9-cyl, GMT-Fiat dieslar.

Effects. 16560 kW.

Bud. 19,0.

Passages. 500.

After rebuild. 1300.

Hyttplatser. 506.

After rebuild. 921.

Enclosures. 200.

After rebuild. 320.

Lastmeter. 420.

IMO. 6921282.
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>none of them could write or spell. Just about what one might expect I suppose.<<

Obviously, Monica, the assorted political idealogues, bigots, and rednecks you mentioned can't think either. I doubt they ever could.

>>It does seem irresponsible to sell off such vessels to developing nations - after all, if it's unsafe in the North Sea, it is unsafe anywhere.<<

I agree to a point. I don't think it's irresponsible in and of itself to sell ships to third world nations. They may have outlived their usefulness in one region but may be entirely suitable for trade in another because of differing market conditions. What is irresponsible and downright my the new owners adding layer upon layer of superstructure to a type of ship known for stability problems without somehow compensating for it, and that appears to have been exactly what happened. Sooner or later, there's a price to be paid for that.

>>22C is about 71.6F, Mike, not 60.<<

Ta for that, Inger. One of these days, I'll need to bookmark a website dedicated to weight and standard conversions.
In any event, I was going by a news report, which may or may not have been accurate, which asserted that the actual water temperature that day was around 60°F. By now, I'm sure it's an entirely moot point for anyone still in the water. The dead no longer care what the media reports or mis-reports.

For whatever it's worth...and that may not be much, CNN's latest is at

At this point, I would have to caution that what we'll be seeing in the news is what investigators often sarcastically refer to as the "Theories du jour," all of which will be more speculation based on some limited facts rather then whatever may really be consistant with reality.

There's quite a bit of talk about a fire, but nobody can seem to agree on where it started. One article asserts it was with a vehical, another with the baggage and spreading from there. Whichever the case may be, I don't think it's a strain to see where this is going. Most of the people who have taken an interest in this thread are well aware of the trouble that can be caused by introducing tonnes of firefighting water into the interior of a ship without thinking of or attempting to remove it. (Remember the Normandie anyone? It's basically the same problem of extra topweight and free surface action where you just don't need it.) Doing so in an already unstable design can only make matters worse.

What the actual investigation will reveal remains to be seen.
Jan 7, 2002
Was her design similar to the ill fated Estonia?
Some of these ferries are death traps- Im wondering if this vessel was designed to sail the waters where she went down..
How deep is the water where she sank?
On the subject of ferry disasters- wasnt there a ferry disaster in recent years in the Phillipines whose death toll passed 3000?

Tarn Stephanos

John Clifford

Mar 30, 1997

My god..that may have surpassed the numbers of deaths on the Wilhelm Gustloff...
Actually, Tarn, the total death toll from the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff is now estimated to be close to 9,600. That data was based on analysis of total passenger and crew capacity for that ship's fatal January 1945 voyage. The initial estimates had been up to 7,500 persons lost, and we will probably never know the true number of fatalities.

The Wilhelm Gustloff sinking may have the highest total casualty losses. As that loss was a wartime sinking, the Dona Paz may be the one sinking with the highest loss of life in a peacetime tragedy.

Frances James

Jul 3, 2000
Wilhelm Gustloff figures official: 6050 unofficial: 9000
Dona Paz figures official: 1500 unofficial: 4000
The company will only admit to about 1500 which is all was supposed to be on board. Who knows. *shrugs* unfortunatly the fuel the tanker Vector 2 was carrying seems to have made the whole thing a giant fireball and destroyed any evidence including most of the ships apparently.

Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
For those wondering about lifeboats on the ferry, she was not required to have "boats for all". She would have come under SOLAS Regulation 20.

This allows passenger ships on short international voyages to carry boats sufficient for 30% of the number on board, plus liferafts sufficient to make the total flotation sufficient for all on board. In addition, further rafts sufficient for 25% of those on board must be carried. In other words, there must be enough boats and rafts for 125% of those on board.

Al Salam Boccaccio 98 seems to have been within the rules. She had eight lifeboats, plus two emergency boats. I seem to see quite a few liferafts below the boats.

Two officers have survived and one has described the efforts made to fight the fire.

I wonder if the disaster came when the captain tried to turn round. If the ship could be kept into the wind there was a chance of keeping her stable while the fire was fought. Bring her beam on and the free surface effect takes over.
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
For whatever it's worth...and that may not be a helluva lot...the latest story I found is at

On the matter of the Doña Paz., it's well to remember that the 4,375 deaths attributed to the ship could still grotesquely nderestimate the true death toll by a considerable margin. I've seen estimates for this ship as high as 8000. Whether or not that's even remotely realistic I can't say but I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if it is. Overcrowding ferries is a very common practice in that part of the world and most of them never have their names appear on the manifest.
Feb 21, 2005
I'm not sure how this works, so I'm just going to ask. The news is not being forthcoming about what I'm going to ask.

Are there plans (to anyone's knowledge) of diving down there to see what can be figured out from the ship itself as to what actually happened? CAN they dive down there? I have no idea how deep the water is or the conditions out there, so forgive me if this question comes off as stupid.
I just thought I'd ask, because wouldn't there be a lot that they could learn for the future by going down there and seeing what they can determine from the ships' hull itself?

Like I say, I'm the furthest thing from an expert on this kind of stuff so I have to depend on the sea-experts here for answers every now and then!

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